Sunday, October 26, 2014

Twenty Two and Six

I must admit that sometimes I feel like I observe my life as though it were some kind of social experiment. This pregnancy and the way it has been received has been no exception to my observations but more on that later. 

In a subsequent pregnancy (a term used in my bereaved circles to describe any pregnancy following the death of an infant or child), there tends to be a multitude of messages about grief.  Many times a new pregnancy is met with sentiments that now the bereaved parent can be joyful, move on or stop grieving.  In reality a subsequent pregnancy may be filled with anxiety, fear and even despair.  For me, I remember finding out that we were pregnant with our middlest, 16 months after Flynn had died and after fertility interventions, and my first reaction was "oh shit, what have we done!"  I was absolutely terrified of everything a pregnancy could mean and I did not want to experience the death of a baby again. I wasn't even sure that there was any other possibility for us.  Moreover, where could I even say that out loud??  Everyone around us wanted us to have the joy of another child and although I knew their intentions were built from love and care, at times it felt like that desire came at the expense of Flynn's memory or the grief that would continue in my life as the result of being Flynn's mom. 
As a way to cope with my anxiety during the pregnancy of my middlest I discussed funeral plans with my therapist and what we would do differently in the event that he died instead of coming home with us.  I had more ultrasounds then I care to remember and although the notion to have less would seem to make sense; between doctors appointments I would become convinced that the baby had died in utero and it was just a matter of time before some medical professional would be breaking the news to me.  While many suggested that I try to be rational about the pregnancy and it's likely positive outcome, it was not a helpful way to manage my stress. Experiencing the death of an infant had taught me that not only was I not invincible but much of what I experienced as my life was beyond my control; including my own pregnancy. It would take us weeks after our middlest was born to believe that we were living in reality and not a dream and we would regularly discuss our belief that he might not be real.
Of course that was ten years ago and I would like to say that it gets easier with each subsequent pregnancy but what I have come to find is there are new challenges that stir the anxiety or create fear.  While that may be a case for not having subsequent pregnancies, being a parent and watching your family and children grow is such a gift it tends to overpower the fear in the end.

So Twenty Two and Six.  That is today. Today I am twenty-two weeks and six days pregnant with our fifth child and my third subsequent pregnancy.  It is of significance because as in my other two subsequent pregnancies this is a day I did not see carrying Flynn.  He was born at twenty-two weeks and five days and there was not a Twenty Two and Six.  As in the other pregnancies, I have held my breath and wished for my body to do what it is supposed to do as I have whispered to my child to please stay with me so that I could meet them, alive and crying on their Birth Day.

As for my observations in this pregnancy ~ it has been hard to be met with questions of my intelligence/mental health surrounding my choice to have another pregnancy and child.  Although my anxiety and fears are tough at times, I am so aware of the blessings each of my children have given me and feel so privileged to have this opportunity one more time.  It is not a matter of my intelligence, it is a matter of love.

“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.”
~Patrick Overton

Friday, September 26, 2014

Another Anniversary

Another year, another anniversary.  How lucky are we to have one another? Of course I can only speak for myself but I think you are  pretty lucky to have me!
Seventeen years equals a multitude of life transitions, such as: Our four apartments (I am calling your parent's basement an apartment) before we transitioned into owning, then it became three houses; five vehicles (not including work vehicles but definitely including that stupid Grand Am). We have survived one another's education - you finished your trade certificate and I finished my culinary apprenticeship, hairstyling school, my undergraduate degree and my Master's (and you call yourself a Jack of All Trades). There have been changes in our jobs, you have had two different jobs but with  a multitude of success that has led you to a career that you love and ummmmmmmm there have been a couple different jobs for me BUT who is counting (just my parents).  There have been fur babies, whom we tested our parental skills on, loving them and of course finding the strength to let them go.  Lastly but of the greatest value, there are the boys. Four beautiful children. They have been the most amazing teachers of love, patience, resilience and of loss. Now in our seventeenth year of marriage we will become parents again, an amazing gift and another adventure.
Seventeen Years married to you. So many joys and adventures, some heartbreaks and sadness but when I reflect back on Seventeen Years, for me it can only equal one thing, Love.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Confronted with A Different Approach

Yesterday I attended a specialist appointment. Like many specialist appointments they took a very thorough medical history.  First a nurse met with me and did an overview of my health history and got my vitals and then a doctor reviewed and expanded upon the initial assessment. In the course of the interview I experienced the medical model in its belief and approach to neonatal death and I had to share it here because all too often bereaved parents are faced with similar ignorance (not necessarily in the medical field, it can happen everywhere).
So this was not the way that I was going to come out with this news but to understand this blog, it is relevant to the dialogue. I am pregnant! Surprise for many. We are so excited and terrified (but that is another blog).
So this was the initial conversation with the nurse:

Nurse: So is this your first pregnancy?

Me: No, it is my fifth.

Nurse: FIFTH! Wow, good for you with all those children at home.

Me:This is my fifth pregnancy and I have three children at home, our second son died.

Nurse: Oh, I am sorry.

The rest of the interview pertained to my health. When I met with the doctor, her bias was much more evident.

Doctor: Has this been a healthy pregnancy?

Me: Yes, but I have had abruptions in three of my pregnancies. My second son was born at 23 weeks and died shortly after.

Doctor: OH, so is that the child that you told my nurse had died? 

Me: Yes

Doctor: Well it was not viable at 23 weeks.

Me: We understood that at the time and we made the tough decision to have him in our community so that we could hold him and keep him until he died.

Doctor: Well I met a child who was born at 26 weeks the other day and they were not healthy.

Me: um.

Doctor: So why would you think it was a good idea to have another child with Chronic Fatigue?

Obviously, the doctor had her opinions which she felt very comfortable expressing. Under some circumstances I do feel very comfortable educating people as I believe that most ignorance is a lack of knowledge (most not all). In this case her viewpoint was complicated by layers of beliefs that I did not have the time or energy to engage with. At the end of the day the person who I need to be comfortable with is me and out of respect and honour to my relationship to my partner as well.
We are looking forward to 2015 when a new Lambert will enter our family where Flynn is remembered and honoured as the valuable Lambert he is.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

No Orchids

This year Flynn's anniversary was different.  We did not recognize it with the same tradition that I have grown accustomed to. Truly I was okay with planning the change in scenery and I enjoyed the time we spent with the boys. If I am being honest I did not miss the moodiness, body aches and extreme fatigue that I normally experience in anticipation of the anniversary. Instead we were eagerly anticipating our escape from daily routines and I knew I could still hold Flynn's memory close and acknowledge him on that day.
In my blog about his anniversary I struggled with the feeling that his birthday was not as comfortable as I wanted or needed it to be. I have come to realize that it was not only the change in scenery or the lack of a time held tradition that made it so different. Moreover it has taken me months to reconcile and recognize that the changes that were made to Flynn's anniversary had a more profound effect on the grief that journeys alongside me.
Every year on May 3rd I purchase blue orchids. They were the flower that showered Flynn's tiny casket and on his anniversary I leave some in the cemetery and I bring five home to represent our family. I place them in the centre of our home, typically the kitchen, where they bloom for a month if not more. They had become a symbol of our grief and consequently marked a period when those around us may extend care and compassion especially if we were less than our optimal selves.  In their own way the bunch of orchids were symbolic of our mourning, while not active any more, still a time that we could give ourselves.
This year, not only were we far away on Flynn's anniversary but there were no orchids. No symbolic representation of our grief that we could meet daily, touch and have loved ones appreciate.  What effect did that have on me? Now, in retrospect, I believe that the lead up that in past years I was so accustomed to became a down swing following this anniversary. The days and weeks that followed May 3rd were filled with fatigue, sadness and periods of depression.  While I found ways to cope and manage these all too familiar feelings it took the guidance and understanding of a friend to help me see the significance of the symbols in my grief. It is with gratitude that I am finally able to write this blog, something that I have struggled to express for months.
So next year? I don't think I am willing or ready to permanently change the tradition surrounding Flynn's anniversary and I will likely look toward familiarity as a form of comfort but I know without a doubt there will be orchids.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

20 Years Today

Today I got re-routed on my way to work.  While I was bitching about the construction on summer streets, I turned right off the main street and knew instantly where I was. One more four-way stop and I would be there.  Not where I intended to be as I was surely going to be late for work but maybe where I was supposed to be even if for the briefest moment.  Beyond the gates lies a place where your name is etched in stone.  I already knew what today was. I have known for weeks that it was coming and I went to bed yesterday aware of what day I would awake to.  Today is twenty years since my life changed forever, the day You died.
Driving slowly past the cemetery I thought about how I might write this blog, if I felt so inclined.  Today was spent in reflection on how meeting you, loving you, knowing that you had died and experiencing your funeral had impacted me but also who I would become as a result.  I decided that putting it to words would help me to honour your memory in a way that feels authentic to me.

Before you I believed that I was invincible, not like superman or some other fictional character but from a place that is based in the residual beliefs of childhood and magical thinking.  In addition to having this amazing ability, I also thought that I would amount to something great - which would definitely be in the area of helping others.  This was the way of the adolescent ego and that is the time that I am speaking of, when you entered my life. The time between childhood and adulthood, where for many who live with the privilege of health, family and modest middle class, it is a time where the good outweighs the bad.
I knew of you before I knew you and so I was aware that you had Cystic Fibrosis. I even did a project on the disease for health class and I had not even met you yet.  The day I did actually meet you, you introduced yourself so assertively and with so much kindness, I liked you instantaneously. In that first conversation you told me about CF as a gesture of transparency and I told you all I had learned about the disease and we fell into an easy friendship.  If I am being honest now, in that first meeting I wanted to save you. I thought I could be the one that would go on to be some sort of Biochemist who in my brilliance could research and cure Cystic Fibrosis (even though I had I dropped out of chemistry a semester earlier).  I was so future-oriented planning the things that we would do together as friends I see now how you helped root me in the present, even before this whole Mindfulness movement, so I could enjoy it there with you ~Thank You.
I don't want to fast forward through the 10 months I got to spend as your friend but I know I could fill 6 blogs talking about that time and I want something different for this one.
June 10, 1994 - you died.  I was devastated.  We were all devastated.  Nothing can  prepare you for the death of someone you love.
I know now that I lost more then you that day; I lost my invincibility, my immortality and my identity.  I was not going to save anyone from death not even myself.  It may seem like an unbearable lesson and for a time it was but it also began to carve out the path for my life.  Admittedly, I was not ready to take that path at the time and it would be years and another death that would finally have me walking my own journey but I am on it now. In my role I support the bereaved as they enter their own journey and I can come from an authentic place with empathy and compassion that I learned because you were my friend.
As in any life that is built from the lessons that death has taught, it is bittersweet.  To have today be just another day and to have you here - well I would have chosen a different path if only it were a choice.
Sheri I remember you always and I know that I have never been alone on my path and that has brought me a tremendous amount of comfort in some of the darkest times.  Miss you ~Until We Meet Again.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Mother's Day Observed

In my practice I have been known to tell individuals in relationship with others that they must be clear with their expectations.  While I understand the disappointment in not receiving accolades or wooing; if we do not communicate what we need or expect, our loved one will likely fall short of our desires and wishes.  Therein lies the potential for breakdown or tension in relationship with others and I am not immune from this experience.

This year Flynn's birthday and Mother's Day have fallen similarly in the calendar as they did 12 years ago and I have been feeling down in relation to this (or at least that is what I am attributing it to).  Practicing what I suggest to others, two weeks ago I told my beloved that I would really appreciate a Love Letter for Mother's Day in lieu of any Hallmark card or store bought merchandise.  Once his jokes about me not being his mother were out of his system, he told me that he liked the idea and would see what he could do.

It may not seem romantic or sentimental to ask for a love letter but I knew that what I needed right then for my spirit and in relation to him was a reminder of our connection. The relationship that is at the basis of our transformation into parenthood and the foundation for our family.  In being honest with him I was more likely to have my needs and desires met.

When he and I began dating we bonded over our love of the written word. We both took poetic license with our thoughts and emotions and reveled in sharing it with one another.  His letter to me today left me a puddle of tears, feeling loved and knowing that in this life I have someone who sees me. His letter touched on the deeply personal and I needed it to be.  These past few weeks I have felt raw and vulnerable "searching for something" to help me feel rooted.  I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated this beautiful act and I wanted to post this passage and say Thank You for loving me.

"When I watch you struggle with your anxiety over them, their difficulties with school and with their ever growing need to make choices for themselves, I'm empowered by your passion and investment into what they will become. I may be a great "Dad" in the moment but I pale in comparison to your attention to detail. Without you by my side and at the helm of this family, I know that we would be lost....veering wildly around in search of some solid ground on which to build a foundation for a strong future. You are our anchor. It sounds unpleasant, but it is the most important requirement in a successful and truly happy family. You need to know that we all love and depend on you, and always will as our lives unfold."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

We Were Not Here

"The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." ~Kahlil Gibran

It wasn't the same this year, Flynn's birthday. Even that is hard to say.  I waited for the lead up; the weeks of turmoil and instability. I waited for my body to remember, feeling hollow and burdened and it did not happen the way I had known in the past.  Maybe it was because we left the familiarity of routine and our home, taking a mini vacation to a place of happiness. 

We were not here.  I thought I would be okay with that. Actually I was content with that until today (the day after his birthday) when I realized that a day which I have always devoted to him did not hold the same commitment to Flynn's memory ~ this year.  Sure I did a Facebook post to remind the world of his significance and my grief but that takes one second out of my day.  Consequently I was sent messages of love and friendship throughout the day and I know that he passed through the minds of my community; that is not meaningless.

Flynn is with me every day.  In a fleeting moment when I can see him in my mind's eye or feel the weight of him in my arms or in a memory of carrying him deep in my womb.  His birthday is different than every other day, it is a time when the world slows down, just the way it did for the days and weeks following his death.  I allow for the feelings that whether valid or not still come to me. There is the disappointment and shame in my body's deficiency. The sorrow in only holding him for half an hour before doctors would take me away to save me (not him). The guilt and tragedy in my recovery overlapping with his final heartbeat - I was not there when he died.  Ultimately it always comes back to the feeling of failure in being a mother that could not save her child.  I need his time so that I can give back to myself the other 364 days of joy.

Flynn - On the way home your brothers argued over who you loved more while they discussed how much they loved and missed you.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Can I have a Do-Over?

As parents, bereaved parents, we need to take time and appreciate that we are doing a good job.  Heck some days I am doing a great job.  Other days I just want a do-over; reset and let me try that one again.
At a recent busy sporting event I had my oldest with me for the entire day and it was nice to have time devoted to Mom and Biggest kid.  After the event we were invited back to another family's house and my son wanted to go, so we did.  There were about 5 teenage athletes that came back with us and hung out in another part of the house while I was having tea with the mom getting to know one another.  It wasn't long before there were six teenagers were hanging out in the kitchen with us - possibly scavenging for food but in the vicinity nonetheless.  The other mom was commenting on the age gap between my boys, asking all of their ages specifically.  Before I could answer the Biggest replied "We have another brother but we lost him."
The 5 other teenagers stopped chatting and the mother asked him what he said (kindly) and all I could think was did the air just get sucked out of the room?

My Biggest said again "We had another brother, Flynn, he was three years younger then me and we lost him."  I corrected him - it was all I could do - "Honey you are correct and he died, shortly after he was born."  The mother was sympathetic, if not completely thrown for a loop. The teenagers were fascinated, the Biggest continued to chat about his brother as they headed back downstairs and I was left feeling exposed,like my secret identity had been revealed.
I have learned that talking about Flynn is easier for me if I feel ready and prepared for the conversation. It is a very intentional act and something that I do not bring into casual relationships.  I guess some would call it guarded.  My Biggest charges into this discussion with a different perspective and understanding of his relationship to his brother.

When we left the house I talked to the Biggest about bringing up Flynn.  I started by letting him know that it was okay to talk about Flynn but that saying things like "we lost him" is confusing when in actuality he died.  I tried to help him see how vocabulary can change the intent of the message. Then I asked him why he brought up Flynn and although I meant it out of curiousity, a part of it was due to my own discomfort.
"He is my brother and if people want to know me they will know about him. I always tell people about him, usually right away."
"Well buddy it is just a very vulnerable aspect of who you are and I worry about you sharing that with people too soon." Even now as a type this I wonder, did I really say that and yep I did.
"I want people to know about him; he was a human being too you know?"
I stopped.  It really was that simple, wasn't it.  Here I was complicating it, caving into societal expectations and definitions of life, death and the value associated with both. Here was my man-child simplifying it down to the root - a place I rarely touched anymore and sadly he thought I didn't realize how human Flynn is.
"That he was, a very special one too."
Where is that parent Do-over button when you need it?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hello Grandma, it's me Melissa

Seven years ago today you died.
A lot has happened since the last time I talked to you.  I remember that day often, the morning that we were leaving to take the boys to Disney World, coming to the hospital to find comfort in your closeness before I could leave.
A day or two before dad had called me at work to tell me that you had fallen. He said that you had told him you were fine.  I called you right away and you told me that you had slipped trying to open the fridge.  You said your ribs still hurt and I asked you to go to the hospital.  I expected a fight at that suggestion, lord knows I had them in the past but you agreed with me. I remember feeling a foreboding pause and I held my breath when I set down the phone receiver.
Dad called me at work the morning I was supposed to leave. I had been putting in a couple of hours because we were not leaving until the afternoon.  He said you had punctured a lung and that the doctors said that given your already fragile condition, it was not likely that you would recover.  I cried heavy full sobs - the tears came out of some place I had been stuffing deep into my gut for a long time - they erupted from me.  I think I shocked dad and it was hard for him to hear me cry like that. I remember him saying "come on now, we knew that this day would come eventually."  It was true, for years you had been preparing all of us that one day you would be gone.  Even a goodbye seen from years away still hurts when it finally gets here.
At the hospital I tried to be stoic. I marched into your room and asked what the doctors were doing and what they thought could be done.  You looked even more fragile then usual but your fire remained.  It made it easy to believe you when you told me that you were not going anywhere.  The nurse interrupted us and I was so grateful because I was on the verge of tears. I went into the hall with Grandpa and he told me that we had to go to Florida and that we could not stay, you didn't want that.  I cried again.
We went back into the hospital room where you were sitting up in bed.  I told you that I loved you and kissed you on the head.  You told me that you would see me when I got back.  I think we both knew the reality and neither one of us could face it.  I left clinging to the hope that your fiery spirit would once again out pace your weakening body.
You died the morning we headed home from Florida. I wasn't there with you.
I wanted to tell you that we had the best trip, together as a family, all of us experiencing Disney for the very first time.  You knew that the previous year had been a tough one for us; we really needed that vacation. Thank you for insisting that we go.
I know you know how the rest of my story goes, I tell it to you as I go. Hello Grandma, it's me Melissa xoxo.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The 20th Anniversary of the Best Week I Ever Had

Remember when you had a best friend (maybe you still do, no judgement)? Their title had been put in place just to remind all of your other friends that there was a bar set and an expectation to meet. Or possibly like me you had 6 best friends, which were really all the friends I had in the world. Every one was a best friend partially due to my own need for diplomacy but also because the friends I had all contributed something amazing to my life.  So how could I choose just one "best" friend?

One of those incredible women was Sheri.  She came into my life unexpectedly, you could even say stealth-like.  In the rule of teenage angst and politics we were destined to be enemies (we had both dated the same guy).  However Sheri could win anyone over with her joie de vivre and when she called me one day asking to go to coffee, I could hardly say no. Little did I know that it would be the beginning of one of the most influential friendships I would ever have.
Sheri and I became fast friends, much to the dismay of our commonly held ex-boyfriend.  We did not attend the same high school so we frequently met at a local coffee joint called The Purple Turtle. We would order coffee and dessert while flirting with the creepy bartender in hopes of getting a shot of something in our coffee (we would never do that!!).  The Purple Turtle was just like those smoky lounges in the movies with couches, live music and sometimes poetry. Sheri and I would sit for hours telling one another about our childhoods, our dreams and aspirations or sharing some darkly shrouded secret.  It was so easy to love Sheri, regardless of her true feelings, I always felt loved in return without judgement or criticism.  There were no politics in our relationship, not in the early days anyway and those were the days that shaped the friendship.

In that coffee joint we dreamed up the idea of going to Montreal for March Break. We were both going to be 18 by March that year (yep do the math from the title and now you know that I am not as young as I look!) and with the drinking age in Quebec being 18 - we could party like it was 1999 (although it was only 1994).  I warned Sheri that my parents would never go for it and she promised that if I could not go she would not go with anyone else and so we asked our parents.  I still wonder to this day if my parents and Sheri's parents had conferred before answering us regarding our trip but I was overwhelmingly surprised to be told that I could indeed go.  For the next couple of months Sheri and I spent most our time planning our vacation.  We booked the VIA rail tickets, found a hotel and planned places we wanted to check out while we were there.
Getting to Montreal was fairly uneventful. What I remember most was changing trains in Toronto and helping Sheri to lug some of her medical equipment between trains - it was f***ing heavy!  Sheri had Cystic Fibrosis and her oxygen machine had to weigh about 50 pounds ~luckily it had wheels but I may have bitched and moaned about its weight for the next 5 hours as we made our way to our destination.  Our hotel was filled with young people, mostly from Ontario and within minutes of checking in Sheri was socializing with people in the halls, getting room numbers and finding out where we would be going that night.  She made a friend everywhere she went!

I would love to document the whole trip here, I think there are things I have long since forgotten but there are some moments that stick out for me. Of those memories, is one night, when Sheri and I went to the Peel Pub.  It was full probably over capacity and I remember the seating as long wooden tables with equally long benches so you were elbow to elbow with the stranger next to you.  Sheri and I started out simply enough with one drink each. Sheri was talking and flirting with people at our table. She said something about being able to stomach anything and so someone bought Sheri a Prairie Fire.  I remember refusing the one bought for me (I could not stomach anything) and so she threw both shots back and asked the waitress for another.  When it arrived she tossed it back too. The group around us started to cheer and clap.  I think she may have had a few more and the crowd around us seemed to grow.  Sheri told the waitress that she could make a sound like a siren and then she did and oh man was it loud!  By now it felt like the whole bar was chanting Sheri's name and so she sounded the siren one more time before retiring the sound effects for the night.  I don't believe we bought a drink all night and when we left that night the whole bar said goodbye to Sheri.  She really could attract people.  Now I will not disillusion you, she may have been able to stomach all that spice but I had to carry her (fireman style) to the waiting cab.
The other memory from that trip involved all the people we met at the hotel.  At any given moment there would be 5-10 people in our room talking, drinking and making plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the bar, whatever. I have pictures of people posing with Sheri and I and frankly I don't remember their names but they all wanted to be in our room, hanging with us.  We talked with people from across Canada. I think we may have made promises of visiting people from B.C. all the way over to the Maritimes. I don't think we bought any drinks while we were there and in our room there was always someone sharing a drink with us (it was truly a celebratory atmosphere). Sheri and I had invitations for every evening that we were there and I don't remember a dull moment.
I said that this March Break is the 20th anniversary of the best week I ever had. Twenty years ago, for the first time I was given the freedom to try out my life as an adult. I took healthy risks and had an incredible amount of fun with total strangers and with my best friend. More than that, for one whole week I got to be joyfully close to a joie de vivre that I had never known up until that point in my life.  In honesty it was a spark that I have not come across again and today is a good day to remember that.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Family Tree Assignment Part 2

You may remember that recently our Littlest brought home an assignment to do a Family Tree for school.  He decided, after a discussion with the Middlest, that he would include Flynn in the project.

Our next step was to work with him in deciding how to illustrate the tree. I will admit that I had a concern; part of the assignment included doing an oral presentation to the class and I was not sure that our Littlest understood how people on his tree died or came to be part of our family. What I really wanted was to ensure that the project would lend itself to the Littlest presenting it to classmates without him feeling confused or judged (secretly or not so secretly, I was having an anxiety attack).

The concept of Flynn (big brother who had died) was still relatively new to our Littlest and that was not taking into account that developmentally his ability to understand death was just evolving to include humans (up until now it was reserved for plants, family pets and batteries).  I recognize that I was being overly protective.  It came from a place of experience, having been through it with our older two children who were confused by messages or concepts about their brother, shared with them by well-meaning (but meddling) teachers, students and other parents.
So we decided to illustrate family members using pictures, well our Littlest decided, he loves photography.  He is already taking "selfies" with my camera when I am unaware.  Here is one I found on my camera today:
We took pictures of ourselves, the brothers, Grandma and Grandpa. We found nice photos of Opa and Nana.  I found a lovely picture of Grandpa Les that I could scan for the project and now our Littlest just wanted one of Flynn.  We have pictures up in our home of Flynn. We have a lovely Flynn scrap book with pictures of ultrasounds, his delivery and his time spent with us.  There was not a shortage of pictures; I just haven't been able to share any of them with the world (or a grade one class). So I compromised with my Littlest to take a picture of the scrapbook that had Flynn's name on the front and a black and white photo of his hand clasping my finger. We were ready to begin!

We had a blast printing the photos and my Littlest took his time cutting out every one (in that way that little ones cut, with their tongue sticking out and their elbows up in the air as they maneuver carefully through every curve). We got out the paints and I painted the branches on the tree.  We stuck the pictures on the tree and discussed who everyone was and how they were related to us. Our Littlest told me that every paint colour was picked specifically for the person it surrounded, although when asked the significance of the colour, our Littlest replied "just because."
My Littlest told me that Grandpa Les was his daddy's dad who had died (I didn't remember telling him that, funny what they absorb).  He told me his Opa was his dad's step dad but his real Opa (yeppers!!).  When our Littlest got to my side of the family he said they were my mom and dad who had not died.  I reminded him that he did not have to tell his class that, but chuckled at the thought.  When he came to describing Flynn's relationship to him, he stopped and looked at me, "he was my big brother, right mom?"  I told him that was right.  "I don't know why he died?" All I could think was "I don't know why either," but  instead I told him that he was born too early. He seemed okay with that.  We recited the relationships several times that evening and once more before he left with his project for school the next day.  I wrote the relationships on the back of the tree for his teacher just in case he got confused (I know over protective again).

The next week in his planner I got a note from his teacher: "We loved his family tree and He did Great!"

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Blog from The Eye's the Limit

I believe I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by beautiful, empowered, and courageous women.  It can be so difficult to be vulnerable and share a heartbreaking experience with the world and I am so honoured the my sister-in-law, Tamsin has agreed to guest blog here on her journey with infertility. She is definitely one of the beautiful women in my life, and I am sure you will see what I mean when you read her blog:

I am a partner, mother, photographer and a woman who has lived through the grief of infertility. I believe it is very important that parents, like us, have positive and wonderful stories to look to in times when we are coping with the grief of infertility; I want to share our story here.  I will try to make it short….
About 10 years ago my husband and I decided (or more closely I convinced him) to start a family. After a year of “trying” and a few basic procedures with my OBGYN, it was determined that we had “unexplained infertility” and we were told our next step would be to see a specialist.  We did just that and in March of 2006 I had a laparoscopic surgery as a last procedure to further investigate the potential cause of our infertility.
I vividly remember waking from the surgery to the sound of a little child crying for his mommy, and my heart knew at that moment that the impending news wasn’t going to be good. My doctor told me that I had severe endometriosis blocking my fallopian tubes and that I would never be able to conceive a child naturally. In his uncomfortable attempt to find something positive in delivering the news to me, he said “the silver lining” is that you will be entitled to medical coverage of 3 IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) attempts.  Essentially, because our fertility issue was mine and not my husband’s, our procedures and testing would financially be covered by OHIP.  We would be able to have 3 egg retrievals and any resulting transfers of frozen embryos that resulted from those retrievals. It would cut the cost of fertility treatments by 85%.
*I want to take this opportunity to make everyone aware that there are thousands of couples who have unexplained infertility or fertility issues that are due to issues with the man and they do not get the same OHIP coverage.  I find this fact unjust and heartbreaking.

My husband and I rode the IVF coaster for 6 years. We had over 60 eggs retrieved and more than 35 embryos created.  We endured 8 IVF attempts that included 16 transferred embryos and after a whole lot of heartbreak, we were emotionally and financially spent. We were left with a lot of hurt and confusion because when we started out our prognosis had been so positive. We understood that our issue was merely logistics due to severe scaring of my fallopian tubes. How do you really and truly deal with the emotions-grief-reality of 16 possible babies who didn’t and couldn’t survive?  I personally, still can’t answer that question.  Ultimately, I believed there was a part of me that knew adoption was going to be the outcome of our journey to have children. So after some long conversations and time to begin to heal, we decided to start the domestic adoption process.
From the time I was old enough to understand family love, the challenges of poverty, and the drive to help others, I knew I wanted to be a foster parent.  I wanted to do something in my life to give a child a better life. Life was going to make that part of our journey towards my own family.

Although different, at times the adoption process could be just as emotionally taxing as the IVF process. After completing our home study, we were considered for 3 unborn babies but the birth parents did not choose us as a potential parent.  That was hurtful and it was hard to understand why.  I found myself questioning whether we looked “good enough” for these birth parents to WANT us.
If there is one thing in life that I believe in it is that there are no coincidences. On the very day our worker was coming to us to discuss a birth mom who wanted to meet us, her co-worker, who was days away from maternity leave, brought her a 3 1/2 month old baby’s profile.  The baby was going to become a Crown Ward and the original adoption plan for him had fallen through.  Our worker wanted to know which file we wanted to consider. We only needed a short time to discuss it before we knew this 3 ½ month old was our baby. Enter Maxwell into our lives.  Within weeks we would be bringing him home and less than a year later Maxwell was officially our beautiful son.

We really believed that this was the end of our journey to family story and we have felt super blessed with our perfect charming boy.  We did however think about a sibling for Maxwell and came to recognize that our journey had emotionally extended ourselves further then a Russian gymnast.  We decided that we were happy with our boy and that a sibling (or more so the process of adopting another child from another family) was just too much for us.  In the back of my mind I hoped for the possibility of a biological sibling even if it was a selfish hope.  I felt selfish because no matter what Maxwell’s birth parent’s situation was, not having the opportunity to raise your baby must rip a piece of your heart out and to me it is not comparable to any loss that we have faced regarding our struggles to start a family.
I had made my peace with so many aspects of motherhood that I would not experience, one of them being that I would never have a newborn child. I had dealt with the sadness I felt from missing the first part of Max’s life (something I think only adoptive parents can truly understand).  I had even become “OK” with the idea that Maxwell would be an only child (in our family).  I believed my blessings outnumbered the fact that life has not always been easy and fluid. However, as life changes when you least expect it, we got the message from our worker four weeks ago stating that Maxwell’s birth mother was expecting again and she was hoping for a consent adoption (different and easier process) with us. After I picked my jaw up from the floor, I felt my heart suddenly become overwhelmed with joy. Life is an amazing ride. Enter Edison into our lives and hearts. This gift life has given our family is a testament to how you never truly know what to expect and you are never prepared for how quickly your life can change.  I am humbled that Maxwell’s birth mother chose us to be a family to his baby brother; for that reason and many others, we will always be thankful that they wanted their baby with us. Because of their choice we have two beautiful baby boys to complete our family and fill our house with love and laughter.

I wrote my story for myself, for those struggling with infertility and also for anyone who knows someone who is dealing with infertility.  It is so important to give support and to be there for your friend(s) during the ups and downs they may face. It’s not easy to be supportive when you can’t personally relate, but the best thing you can do is to listen, take them out for coffee, and let them have a space to express their feelings.  Being sensitive to that person struggling with infertility when you are “out with the girls” talking about your birth experience, pregnancy, and babies at home.  Most importantly, try to stay away from saying “just relax” and “it will happen, just be patient” and if they have decided to pursue adoption, please do not tell them “I bet you’ll get pregnant as soon as you adopt!”  To those women and men who are dealing with the very personal and often private (too private) trials of infertility, know that you are not alone.  It may be hard to believe (and I understand that), but for us life has worked in wondrous and sometimes perfect ways.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Family Tree Assignment

We have been here before with our oldest and middlest (see inset picture) and so it was not a big surprise when our littlest brought home the Family Tree assignment.  What was interesting to me was my reaction to the assignment in relation to past years and how it has changed every time we have received it.
With our oldest, I think I wept first and then panicked second.  I did not want to project my understanding of our family tree onto this little person. At the same time, I did not know how I could see a tree illustrated without his brother on it.  Lucky for me, when our oldest created his tree he wanted Flynn on it "no matter what!"
When the assignment came home for our middlest, I felt more at peace to let him create the tree using his understanding of our family.  He did not include Flynn and although it was hard (for me) I did not want to challenge his view of us.
Now our littlest has brought home the same assignment.  This summer he started to make connections and ask about Flynn but I am not sure how much he relates that to himself and familial relationships.  Once again I am reminding myself to sit back and let him do the assignment from his perspective of our family and not mine.  Then this happened:

Middlest (looking at the above sheet of paper): Mom, Littlest has to do a family tree of our family.
Me: Yes, we have to work on that this weekend.
Middlest (to Littlest): How many brothers do you have?
Long Pause
Littlest: Brothers?
Middlest: Yes, how many brothers do you have?
Littlest: Have?
(me giggling at this conversation in the background)
Middlest: Yes!  You need to count Flynn, so how many?
Littlest: You, Oldest and Flynn, so three.
Middlest: Right. You need to put Flynn on your tree, right Mom?
Me: He can do whatever he wants, it is his assignment.
Littlest: I will put Flynn, he was my brother.

Dilemma solved.  Now I just have to get through the making of the tree and the discussions that will ensue.  Watch for the next blog that will contain that adventure.

P.S. I met with the littlest's teacher this week and I mentioned the family tree assignment and as I was preempting the possibility that Littlest would include Flynn, the teacher stopped me and said, "I know it will have Flynn on it, I remember your middlest when he was in my class and he talked about him all the time, and thank you for the reminder."  I am so grateful for amazing teachers!